It’s far from news that vaccines play a large role in preventing fatal diseases, such as polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough. But as anti-vaccination movements gain traction, the world is seeing a dramatic increase in these diseases that once were nearly eradicated.
While one may assume that this is a third-world problem, that’s far from the truth: In North America, cases of vaccine preventable diseases rise at a rate of 6,000 percent, whereas the rest of the world sees a 57 percent growth. In 2010, there were 12,000 cases of whooping cough in the US—5,000 of which were in California alone. This year, a report by the California Department of Public Health showed that figure is almost at 8,000 cases. Much of this is due to the belief that vaccinations are “unnatural,” with parents (typically in middle-class communities) refusing to vaccinating their toddlers and babies.
“I see the devastating effects of these infections which are vaccine-preventable,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, medical director in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “The most frustrating part for me is in talking to these families after their child becomes severely ill. I have to tell them that, ‘yes, your child’s illness probably could have been prevented.’ This is the hardest thing for young parents to hear. All of them tell me that they did not think it could happen to their child. But it does happen.”
This distrust and fear is affecting South and Central Africa as well, with diminished vaccination efforts contributing to a measles outbreak from 2009 to 2013—a highly contagious disease potentially fatal to young children.
Pakistan, however, has different reservations regarding vaccinations. Its polio vaccination workers are often attacked and killed by members of the Taliban, who distrust the Western countries involved with the cure. This year Pakistan reported 202 cases of polio.
Based off a map created by the Council on Foreign Relations, this video from GOOD illustrates seven years of global outbreaks in 70 seconds: